We were doing barn chores, and the goats told me very firmly that they wanted to go on a hike. Well, I had work to do, but the poor things have been pretty cooped up with the drizzly weather. They told me by lining up at the gate as I hauled wheelbarrows of compost through. They didn’t sneak through. They just looked at me hopefully. “Walk?” I gave in. We went for a hike.
Our farm is too hilly for normal pastures, but it does lend itself to hiking a bit. So I grab some tools to tackle Himalayan blackberries, call the goats, and head out to the other side of the farm. We go down a big hill, and I stop at the bottom, turn around, and watch the goats come down. They get so happy, they jump in the air. While running. Downhill. Usually sideways jumps, 4 feet in the air, legs dancing. Then we hike through the trees, and squeeze through a narrow pass into a wider section. They squeeze through the pass single-file, then mass up in the wide area and run after me as a pack. Then they spread out and nibble.
I use pallets to smush the blackberry canes. I press them down, then climb up to use my weight to break the thicker canes. Abbey is my partner. Once I get the pallet stable, she climbs up. Her weight is a big help. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she stands still and braces me while I climb to the top edge and hop. She waits for me to release pressure on her shoulder, and climbs up to the top edge with me. I’m about 120 lbs., she’s about 120 lbs., she climbs up and we’ve got twice as much weight to break blackberry canes. She puts her weight at the same edge I do – whichever edge that is. It’s a strange method, but it works.
Abbey wandered off when I was repositioning the pallet again. A trio of mini Nubians hopped up to help me out, but they did it all wrong. Nobody was stabilized enough to brace me! Abbey’s help was never requested or trained – it just sort of evolved naturally. I didn’t realize until today how perfectly she melded into the process. When I started, I didn’t let the goats climb the pallet until I stabilized it. Abbey thought she was special, so she climbed up there anyway. And she turned into a help. When she felt that it was shaky, she braced. When she stood solid, I used her for balance. And she held steady for me, sensing that she was supporting me.
Abbey has been a real brat lately, but we make a good team most of the time. She’s bratty because she’s in heat, I think, but she doesn’t like her buck.
Well, I paused on our hike, and just let the goats be goats out there. I turned to the other side of the clearing, and Kopi was reaching for high leaves, balanced on Maggie’s back. Maggie and Kopi don’t have a special bond. Kopi’s big. Maggie isn’t. She ducked out from under, but not before giving Kopi a minute to eat high leaves. I guess that’s what goats do for their herd – they lend a hoof. And they give us an honorary space in the herd.
It’s kind of cool how the goats help us sometimes, deliberately. I grew up with dogs and cats, not goats. I didn’t expect goats to be – well, anything except a milk source, and a pasture occupier. To see them finding ways to help us out – that’s cool. My dog tries to help out. He cleans up food spills and tells the UPS guy – in NO uncertain terms – to go away. I expect that. I was really surprised to find goats being actively helpful.